Idaho Fish and Game is moving feed stores at Sand Creek Wildlife Management Area to prepare for possible emergency winter feeding.
Normally the elk push right through Sand Creek Wildlife Management each December on their way to winter on the desert behind St. Anthony. But this year about 70 animals failed to keep up with the thousands of other elk and for some reason stopped near the ponds at the center of the wildlife management area.
While the area is managed to benefit wildlife, normally only a few hardy moose overwinter there. Recreational snow machine riders reported to Fish and Game that they had seen elk at the WMA that appeared to be struggling and that some calves had died.
Investigation by Fish and Game biologists confirmed that some elk had stopped short of the traditional winter range and appeared to be having trouble making a go of it on the wildlife management area. Fish and Game reviewed the situation with the Upper Snake Region Winter Feeding Advisory Committee to explore the issues and potential actions.
Key to any decision was an accurate elk count.
A previously planned radio telemetry flight made three passes over the wildlife management area on the morning of February 25. At that time no elk were seen and a large animal trail was observed heading to the southwest towards the traditional wintering area.
Because these elk have proven unpredictable, Fish and Game worked with Fremont County to develop a contingency plan should the elk return. The county has plowed the Sand Creek Road to the management area and has closed it to keep people from disturbing the elk.
Fish and Game took an existing supply of alfalfa hay bales and will position six tons at Sand Creek. According to IDFG